What are Economic Indicators?

 

Economic indicators are snippets of financial and economic data published regularly by governmental agencies and the private sector. These statistics help market observers monitor the economy's pulse - so it's no surprise that they're religiously followed by almost everyone in the financial markets. With so many people poised to react to the same information, economic indicators have tremendous potential to generate volume and to move prices. It might seem like you need an advanced economics degree to parse all this data accurately - but in fact traders need only keep a few simple guidelines in mind to making trading decisions based on this data.

Mark your economic calendars

 

Know exactly when each economic indicator will be released. You can find these calendars at the New York Federal Reserve Bank's site; FOREX.com clients can simply login to MyAccount and click on Economic Calendars. Watching the economic calendar not only helps you consider trades around these events, it helps explain otherwise unanticipated price actions during those periods. Consider this scenario: it's Monday morning and the USD has been in a tailspin for 3 weeks, with many traders short USD positions as a result. On Friday, however, U.S. employment data is scheduled to be released. If that report looks promising, traders may start unwinding their short positions before Friday, leading to a short-term rally in USD through the week.

What does this data mean for the economy?

 

You need not understand every nuance of each data release, but you should try to grasp key, large-scale relationships between reports and what they measure in the economy. For example, you should know which indicators measure the economy's growth (gross domestic product, or GDP) versus those that measure inflation (PPI, CPI) or employment strength (non-farm payrolls).

Not all economic indicators can move markets

 

The market often pays more attention to certain indicators under certain conditions - and that focus can change over time. For example, if prices (inflation) are not a crucial issue for a given country, but its economic growth is problematic, traders may pay less attention to inflation data and focus on employment data or GDP reports.

Producer Price Index (PPI)

 

Measures average changes in selling prices received by domestic producers in the manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and electric utility industries. The PPIs most often used for economic analysis are those for finished goods, intermediate goods, and crude goods.

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

 

Measures the average price level paid by urban consumers (80% of the population in major currency countries) for a fixed basket of goods and services. It reports price changes in over 200 categories. The CPI also includes various user fees and taxes directly associated with the prices of specific goods and services.

Durable Goods

 

Durable Goods Orders measures new orders placed with domestic manufacturers for immediate and future delivery of factory hard goods. A durable good is a product that lasts over three years, during which its services are extended. Companies and consumers sometimes put off purchases of durable goods during tough economic times - so this figure is a useful measure of certain kinds of customer demand.

Employment Cost Index (ECI)

 

Payroll employment is a measure of the number of jobs at larger companies in more than 500 industries in all 50 U.S. states and 255 metropolitan areas. ECI counts the number of paid employees working part-time or full-time in the nation's business and government establishments.

 


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